Birds in Amber

2 Jul 2016

At ... life evolved three times faster after the extinction of the dinosaurs than it evolved in the preceding 80 million years. Is this more evidence of faulty geochronology - the assumption layers of sediment were laid down over an inordinately long period of time whereas an asteroid impact hardly created a whisper in the geological record? The research is published in the Proceedings of the Royal Society B (June 2016).

At ... we have another study from June's Nature Communications, wings and skin from a bird or birds preserved in amber. The bird concerned is thought to have become extinct with the dinosaurs and it seems the bird (or birds) were struggling to extricate themselves from the tree resin. They may even have been fledglings. We may wonder what causes tree resin to ensnare birds.

Surprisingly, the feather arrangement is very similar to modern birds and this implies that in the dinosaur era birds were flying around much the same as they do today. At ... where we learn the location of the amber was Burma and the wings are some of the most pristine fossil birds yet found. Birds and dinosaurs are related, we are told, but lizards did not evolve into birds. They differ.

The story is also featured in National Geographic and various newspapers around the world. We are told that birds during the dinosaur age were not hatched without feather like today - but hatched out with feathers intact. Are the wings trapped in amber from young birds newly hatched?

At ... there is a story that may impact on the above. We are told that dating bird like footprints in Argentina have caused a big problem. The Santa Ramorga rock formation is dated 212 million years ago. Well preserved and abundant bird footprints were found in the rocks and scientists naturally assumed the trails were made by a small bird like dinosaur as published in Nature in 2012. I can see one problem here in that the author seems to think birds did not exist in the dinosaur era - but may be I'm wrong. The point he makes is more interesting as he says a different group of scientists had a closer look at the footprints and concluded they were made by a bird resembling a sandpiper - a thoroughly modern bird. They inhabit wetlands and tidal flats. The scientists were surprised and had the sedimentary rocks redated and came back with a figure of 37 million years ago - well within the Tertiary and not such a startling result. This is of course long after the dinosaur era but why did the dates vary by such a degree - and this is the gist of the post at the Creationist web site. Not only that  why did the dates fit in with the assumptions made by two different groups of scientists. The first group assumed they were early birds related to the dinosaurs and the second group thought they had modern antecedents (and the dates agreed with both points of view). How can that happen - is there some sort of process going on here that dates are pulled out of the hat in agreement with what each group expected. This is an important point. The rocks would not have been redated unless the second group had decided they were sandpipers (or early relatives of sandpipers). As such, we may assume they did not think sandpipers lived during the dinosaur age.Whether such assumptions are valid or not is immaterial but the conflicting dates are strange to say the least. How many other geological dates are way out?

How can radioactive dating differ by such large amounts of time? The older dates were produced by the Argon method and the younger dates by the lead/uranium method. In both instances the dates produced were close to what was expected. This obviously perplexed the blog author and he went on to give another example. A fossilised hominid found in East Africa was located beneath a layer of volcanic rock that was at first dated 230 million years ago. Richard Leakey protested - that couldn't be as the hominid was relatively young. The volcanic layer was redated and it came out between 2 and 5 million years ago, dates that Leakey had urged on the laboratory. It makes you wonder - how does this happen and much validity is there in radiometric dating methodology. Uniformitarianism likes the dating method as it gernerally concurs with their long time scale - but it is not apparently consistent (no matter what they might say).

However, the Creationist author then goes on to muddy the waters by bringing in the Bible and Noah's Flood etc. In spite of that the Creationists are pointing out some odd behaviour by mainstream, behaviour that is otherwise waved over with a nod and a wink.